Vardousia Mountains Alpine Climb via Lion’s Couloir

Vardousia (Greek: Βαρδούσια) is a mountain in northwestern Phocis and southwestern Phthiotis, Greece. Its highest peak, Korakas (Greek: Κόρακας) reaches 2,495 m (8,186 ft) above sea level, making it the second-tallest summit in Central Greece after Giona. It is a southern extension of the Pindus mountains. It is divided into three main parts: Northern Vardousia, whose highest peak is Sinani at 2,059 metres (6,755 feet), the very steep Western Vardousia, whose highest peak is Soufles at 2,300 metres (7,500 feet), and Southern Vardousia, with the highest peak of Korakas. The whole range measures about 25 kilometres (16 miles) from north to south.

The Vardousia is drained by tributaries of the river Spercheios to the north, the Mornos to the east and south, and the Evinos to the west. The Panaitoliko mountains are to the west, Tymfristos to the northwest, Oeta to the east and Giona to the southeast.

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Mount Aselinon (Giona) while driving to Vardousia Mountains

We have started our travel towards Vardousia before dawn and our destination point was Athanasios Diakos, a picturesque village lying at the foot of the north side of mount Vardoussia at an altitude of 1.500m, surrounded by a dense forest of fir, plane, chestnut and oak trees. Once we have reached Athanasios Diakos (or Ano Mousounitsa) we drove for another 10 kilometres on a dirt road in order to reach a location called Profitis Elias. This dirt road is in rather good condition and therefore is not difficult to be approached.

 


See previous winter mountaineering ascent in Vardousia and nearby mountains:


Profitis Elias – Mountain Shelter/Refuge EOOA (Pitimaliko)

We have parked the car within a beautiful pine forest at around noon time and we rapidly got ready with all our equipment for the approach of our climb. The trail path officially starts from Athanasios Diakos and goes through Profitis Elias and ends at the EOOA mountain shelter (refuge) at an altitude of 1.930 meters.

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Gioni Plai
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Sun, Blue Skies and Snow
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Enter a caption
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Trail signs
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Hiking Up

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Beautiful trail path

While we were hiking up towards the mountain shelter of Vardousia, we have seen a winter mountaineering school taking lessons on self arrest and other winter mountaineering techniques. As you can see from the photos we have had exceptional weather conditions, actually too good to be good. Sun was shinning through the whole weekend and the wind was almost not existing.

On the way towards the mountain shelter we needed to do a traverse that sometimes can be a bit tricky due the ice that is forming on that slope. Actually, few years ago a fellow climber experienced a fall and has been hospitalised with severe bone fractures.

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Winter mountaineering school
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Traversing
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under the sun
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Towards the mountain shelter
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Sheppard cabin used only during summer time
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at the ridge
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Mixed climb routes “playground”
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Almost at the mountain shelter

Vardousia Mountain Shelter – Megas Kambos via Lion’s Couloir

It was about 13.30 when we have reached the mountain shelter where we had a short 10 minutes break in order to have some water and mostly to prepare our climbing gear. Part of the needed climbing gear for this ascent was the following items:

Once we were ready, we have started our ascent towards the alpine climbing part of Lion’s couloir in Vardousia. Bellow a photo of the route we had to follow.

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Vardousia Lion’s couloir route

Vardousia mountains is perhaps the most interesting mountain in Greece for winter mountaineering activities, alpine climbs and even steep ice climbing activities. In fact there are numerous of alpine climbing routes such as the following ones

  • Vardousia – Gidovouni
  • Vardousia – Gioni To Plai
  • Vardousia – Korakas
  • Vardousia – Koryfi 2437
  • Vardousia – Pano Psilo
  • Vardousia – Pyramida
  • Vardousia – Skorda Mousounitsas
  • Vardousia – Skorda Pitimalikou
  • Vardousia – Skoufia

The route for the famous Lion’s couloir starts from the EOOA mountain shelter and the beginning of the route is on a slope which is about 35-40 degrees up to the rocky area of the couloir. From the first rocks, the steepness of the slope starts to get more serious and on some parts exceeds the 60 degrees of steepness. It was a lovely climb up to the rocks but due to the steepness of the slope we needed to secure our selves with snow pickets on a couple of part of the route.

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View of the “Epaggelmaties” route and Central Couloir
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Ready to attack the Lion’s Couloir
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POA mountain shelter as viewed from above
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climbing up
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Gidovouni

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View from above
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Snow picket placement
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Rocks before Megas Kampos

Avalanche and fall into the void

Once we have reached the rocky part of the couloir, I needed to secure the rest of the team. I have placed carefully an ice picket and I made sure to protect the climb of the fellow climbers. On the part, we have also changed the lead of the climb and a fellow climber moved towards the exit of the couloir. On that part the team mate used protection on the rock and he used a belay device in order to secure my climb. As soon I started to climb up, a slab of snow under my feet moved far away from me and suddenly this small avalanche brought me few meters down. It was like flying down to the void, but due to the excellent belay of a fellow climber, I was basically saved from a severe and perhaps a fat fall towards the void.

Therefore, I always demand from all the fellow climbers to be 100% ready and well equipped prior of such demanding and dangerous climbs.

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Steep part and belay
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Views from the bellay
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Stunning views

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The steepest part of the couloir where the small avalanche took place

It took us about 3 hours to climb up the famous Lion’s couloir of Vardousia but it was an amazing experience to see the alpine plateau of Megas Kampos and of course Korakas peak (2.495 meters).

It is important to notice, that for this demanding winter mountaineering ascent we also had together with us an un-experienced person and we were very happy to lead this person towards the top.

It was almost 16.30 and the sun had started to move away from us and therefore we needed to move very fast towards the mountain shelter again. The down climb is also very demanding, but instead of climbing down form the same route, we decided to climb down from the “Portes” (Gates) couloir. This is an easier couloir to down climb, but nevertheless is quite steep too.

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Megas Kampos and Korakas peak
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Sunset time
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Collecting the rope
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Beautiful Vardousia
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Sunset from the top
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Overlooking EOOA mountain shelter

It was a very long and demanding day but a day full of nice experiences, emotions and stunning views. Of course, after a such demanding day, where we basically had no break for food, we ended up to the mountain shelter and enjoyed a lovely spicy pasta with minced meat.


Details of the climb:

  • Location: Vardousia Mountains
  • Starting Point: Athanasios Diakos / Profitis Elias
  • Ending Point: Korakas Peak 2.495 m.
  • Trail Signs: Well signed path
  • Minimum Elevation: 966 m
  • Maximum Elevation: 2.495 m.
  • Total Distance: 19.9 km
  • Difficulty: Difficult
  • Water Features: Only one during winter time

Bellow you can see the route we have followed on a map and on 3D:

Map view3D view of the climb


See previous winter mountaineering ascent in Vardousia and nearby mountains:

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9 thoughts on “Vardousia Mountains Alpine Climb via Lion’s Couloir

    1. Thanks for reading and pleased to know you liked the post.

      With regards the sleeping bag, Cumulus replied soon and with no hesitation asked me to send the sleeping bag to them and they will take care of it without any issues. Though, due to the fact this period I need the bag, I will send it in a couple of months from now.

      I like their down to earth approach and the very easy going and friendly customer service.

      Like

    1. Thanks for reading Brian and indeed, fortunately I was secured on the rope, otherwise, I would not be writing these lines in this moment. Of course, I’m such climbs, there is always a certain degree of the unexpected and therefore we always need to be ready to act accordingly.

      Though, the whole climb was really nice and the sunset was simply magnificent!

      Like

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